There are plenty of reasons Ruapehu is known as ‘Our Greater Outdoors’, starting with a volcanic wonderland, New Zealand’s longest navigable river, verdant native forest and pretty hill country. Whether you want to walk, bike, canoe, play golf, or hit the snowy slopes, this remarkable region has active adventures for everyone.
Soak up the Sights, Scenery and Stories by Bike
An ever-growing network of cycle trails makes Ruapehu a rewarding place for active exploration on a bike or ebike. The classic one-day ride is the Ohakune Old Coach Road, which boasts spectacular railway relics and lovely bush. The Old Coach ride is just one section of the Mountains to Sea – Ngā Ara Tūhono Cycle Trail, with all the other sections rideable as day rides or shorter outings. This includes the up-and-coming Marton Sash and Door trail from National Park Village, which takes in an historic bush tramway brought back to life through interesting storyboards. The other Ruapehu must-do is the Timber Trail through stunning Pureora Forest, which can be ridden over two days or in sections. Handy bike hire and shuttle services make for easy trip logistics throughout the region.
Paddle Down the Whanganui River
A lush, green contrast to the volcanic plateau, Whanganui National Park is centered upon New Zealand’s longest navigable river – a place of deep gorges, cascading waterfalls and native forest. The Whanganui River is rich in human history, retold in special places such as former Māori kāinga/settlements and the lonely Bridge to Nowhere. Immerse yourself in this remote and magical place on the Whanganui Journey, the 3–5 day canoe trip is actually one of New Zealand’s Great Walks. Local tour operators offer all sorts of options including leisurely day-trips suitable for most ages and abilities, and often featuring the highly memorable jetboat trip between the Bridge to Nowhere and Pīpīriki.
Explore Tongariro National Park on Short Walks
A spectacular landscape of steaming craters, rock gardens, surreal lakes and tumbling waterfalls, New Zealand’s oldest national park is an endlessly fascinating backdrop for walks suited to every age and ability. Whakapapa Village is a starting point for several memorable options, such as the loop walk to Taranaki Falls that boasts lovely views enroute to the falls, which tumble over an ancient lava flow. The Silica Rapids track is also a must-do for its vibrant, streambed colours and unique, alpine forest.
The view-filled Mountain Road over at Ohakune is the starting point for the track to Waitonga Falls, the national park’s highest waterfall. The 90-minute-return trail features notable trees such as mountain beech and kaikawaka (mountain cedar), and traverses a pretty boardwalk through Rotokawa, an alpine bog where the reflection of Mt Ruapehu can be seen on still days. The 39m Falls drop into a remarkable gorge full of big boulders and mossy streams – a wonderful place to sit and contemplate for a while.
Tackle the Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Tongariro National Park is also home to one of the world’s finest one-day hikes, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, which also forms part of the Tongariro Northern Circuit Great Walk. This challenging but richly rewarding journey takes in a series of scenes in the heart of the volcanic wonderland – alpine rock gardens, giant lava fields, steamy fumaroles, a bright red crater, and mighty Mt Ngāuruhoe – a mountain so picture-perfect it starred as Mt Doom in The Lord of The Rings.
Shuttle companies offer transport so you can hike the trail independently or go with a local guiding company to get deeper insights from people who know this place well. Guided hikes also allow you to experience the Tongariro Alpine Crossing all year round, with winter particularly memorable for dramatic, snowy landscapes and the opportunity to learn new skills.
Jetboat and Walk to Bridge to Nowhere
Paddling down the Whanganui River isn’t the only way to visit the heritage-listed Bridge to Nowhere, the poignant memorial to the abandoned hopes and dreams of the returning World War I servicemen. The classic day trip starts at Pīpīriki with an invigorating jetboat ride upriver, followed by an easy and delightful bush walk to reach the iconic Bridge (around 40 minutes each way). Tour operators also offer canoeing as part of the tour if that idea floats your boat.
Skiing & Snowboarding on Mt Ruapehu
Great snowfall, incredible views and unique volcanic features make Mt Ruapehu a must-do for lovers of snow sports. Whakapapa and Tūroa together offer 1000 hectares of varied terrain, each with 700m of vertical descent through natural half pipes, chutes and sweeping glaciers, accessed via modern lift facilities including Whakapapa’s Sky Waka gondola. Learners are well catered for at New Zealand’s best beginner area, Happy Valley, which opens early June. Ruapehu’s alpine towns offer excellent ski (and après-ski!) services, too.
Play a Round of Golf
Ruapehu has two notable and welcoming 18-hole golf courses, set in beautiful surrounds. Just five minutes’ drive from central Ohakune, the championship Waimarino Golf Club is one of the highest-rating golf courses in the Manawatu and Whanganui area. It’s a par 72, family friendly, and boasts a spectacular Mt Ruapehu backdrop. Over in Taumarunui, the century-old Tarrangower Golf Course is rated in New Zealand’s top 50. Dating back to the early 1920’s, it’s an attractive all-weather course set in parklike grounds with undulating fairways and pristine greens.
For more adventures, read about Five Fantastic ways to see Tongariro National Park and Ruapehu’s Remarkable Must-Dos
PLAN YOUR TRIP at www.visitruapehu.com or visit the i-SITE Visitor Information Centres in Ohakune and Whakapapa.